Category Archives: Accessibility

Signing with Babies and Toddlers, Signing in the Library – 3 New Webinar Series!

Little Hands Signing Professional Development Series: Babies and Toddlers

Learn engaging storytime activities for babies and toddlers that incorporate basic American Sign Language!

Tuesdays, March 30-May 4 from 3-4 PM Eastern/2-3 PM Central/1-2 PM Mountain/12-1 PM Pacific   |   Online sessions via Zoom (6 weeks, 1 hour per week)

Join us for weekly interactive workshops that teach basic American Sign Language vocabulary and demonstrate how to use the signs in storytime activities and the early childhood classroom. This series will focus on vocabulary and best practices for baby and toddler programs. Each session will focus on specific thematic vocabulary:

  • March 30: Getting Started
  • April 6: Playtime Signs
  • April 13: Mealtime Signs
  • April 20: Diaper and Potty Signs
  • April 27: Safety Signs
  • May 4: Our Signing Day

Register for Little Hands Signing Professional Development Series: Babies and Toddlers Now!



Get live, hands-on practice with American Sign Language vocabulary for library settings and improve your ability to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing patrons!


Tuesdays, March 30-May 4, 2021 from 10-11AM Eastern/9-10AM Central/8-9AM Mountain/7-8 AM Pacific   |   Online sessions via Zoom (6 weeks, 1 hour per week)

Learn how to improve your service to deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons in this interactive series. We’ll cover basic information about American Sign Language and Deaf Culture, as well as specific vocabulary for the library setting. Each session will build on those before it to reinforce your knowledge and expand your ability to communicate with members of the Deaf community, and you’ll get plenty of interactive signing practice! Recording access will be available to those who cannot attend the sessions live.

Who it’s for: Library staff who are new to ASL; Library staff who have taken an ASL class but are unfamiliar with library-specific vocabulary; Library staff who have learned basic ASL library vocabulary in the past and need a refresher.

Register for Hands Up!: Live ASL Practice for Library Staff Beginner Series Now!


Tuesdays, March 30-May 4, 2021 from 1:30-2:30 PM Eastern/12:30-1:30 PM Central/11:30 AM-12:30 PM Mountain/10:30-11:30 AM Pacific   |   Online sessions via Zoom (6 weeks, 1 hour per week)

Practice your ASL for the library setting in these interactive sessions! The instructor will design sessions to meet the specific review and practice needs of participants. Join us to reinforce your library signing skills and increase your confidence in your ability to communicate with members of the Deaf community. Recording access will be available to those who cannot attend the sessions live.

Who it’s for: Those who have taken ASL for Library Staff eCourses through the American Library Association; Anyone who already knows some library vocabulary in ASL and wishes to polish their signing skills.

Note: If you have taken ASL courses before, but are not familiar with vocabulary specific to the library setting, we recommend you register for the Beginner session rather than Intermediate.

Register for Hands Up!: Live ASL Practice for Library Staff Intermediate Series Now! 

Webinar Series Pricing:

  • Individual: $240 (includes live webinar and recording access for the 6-week series)
  • Group rate (10 people): $2000 (includes live webinar and recording access for the 6-week series)

Certificate of completion available upon request with successful completion of post-test.

About the Instructor:

Kathy MacMillan (she/her) is a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter, instructor, consultant, writer and signing storyteller. Kathy is the author of the Little Hands Signing board book series (Familius Press) and Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (Huron Street Press), as well as many other books for children, teens, and adults. She has worked in public libraries for over twenty years, and was the Library/Media Specialist at the Maryland School for the Deaf, Columbia Campus from 2001 to 2005. Kathy presents American Sign Language programs for families and workshops for workshops and educators. She also serves on the board of Deaf Camps, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides camps for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and children learning American Sign Language. She lives in Baltimore, MD.


2-Part Webinar: Serving Deaf Patrons in the Library


Serving Deaf Patrons in the Library
A two-part online workshop, each session lasting 90 minutes, on Thursdays, September 17 and 24, 2020 , 2:30pm Eastern/1:30 Central/12:30 Mountain/11:30am Pacific

Library services are for everyone, and that includes the deaf community. In this workshop, Kathy MacMillan, librarian and certified American Sign Language interpreter, guides you in making your library a more welcoming place for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. You will gain an understanding of Deaf culture, learn library-related signs, and become prepared to confidently work with interpreters for your programs.

$75 per person; discounts available for groups and American Library Association Members.

Register now.

Register now for Basic ASL for Library Staff! Starts next week!

Basic ASL for Library StaffInstructor: Kathy MacMillan, NIC, M.L.S.

Asynchronous eCourse beginning Monday, March 26, 2018 and continuing for 6 weeks (Participants will have 12 weeks to complete course materials)


Click here to register.

Estimated Hours of Learning: 30 (Certificate of Completion available upon request)

American Sign Language (ASL) is an invaluable skill for library professionals. A basic grasp of ASL enhances your ability to serve deaf library users and opens up a new world of possibilities for storytime programs. It’s also a marketable professional skill that can translate to public service jobs beyond the library world.

Ideal for those without previous experience, this eCourse taught by librarian and ASL interpreter Kathy MacMillan will use readings, multimedia resources, and online discussion boards to introduce basic ASL vocabulary and grammar appropriate for use in a library setting. MacMillan will place ASL within a linguistic and cultural context, aiding participants in improving library services.

Comments from previous students of this course:

“Thank you for teaching me much more than I expected. It’s been a wonderful experience that I will certainly share with everyone who will listen!”

“This course has been invaluable to me…I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the course and truly appreciate someone’s genius in offering it. The instructor was a gem in the way that she provided comprehensive answers to questions, feedback, tips and resources.”

“I absolutely loved the class and would HIGHLY recommend it to ANYONE — librarian or not!”

“This class was interesting, informative and entertaining. It opened my eyes to a variety of ideas and concepts that can only make me a better librarian as well as a better person. I thought things were well organized and presented in an ordered and logical fashion, each lesson building on the one before.”

Register now!

March 2 is Read Captions Across America Day

So you probably knew that March 2 was Read Across America Day – but did you also know that it is Read Captions Across America Day?


Lead by the Described and Captioned Media Program, Read Captions Across America (RCAA) is held in conjunction with the National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America event every year on or around March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss.

The purpose of Read Captions Across America is to raise awareness—particularly among children and their parents and teachers—that video-based media can be just as effective at encouraging and fostering reading skills as books, as long as captions are always turned on!

Order a FREE toolkit, including posters, bookmarks, and certificates here.

Additionally, DCMP members are eligible to receive a free Dr. Seuss DVD as part of this campaign. Find out if you are eligible for a free membership here.

Free Accessibility Training and Resources for Librarians from Project ENABLE

The name says it all:


Project ENABLE is the result of an extraordinary partnership between the Center for Digital Literacy, the School of Information Studies (iSchool@Syracuse) and the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University.  This project provides free online training modules designed for public, academic and school librarians to help them make their libraries truly inclusive for all users. Thanks to funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, anyone interested in creating accessibility in libraries can access these trainings, and modules can also be customized for individual or group use.

Once you sign up for a free account, you’ll take an initial assessment and then have access to five self-paced training modules, focusing on disability awareness, disability law and policy, creating an accessible library, planning inclusive programs and instruction, and assistive technology in libraries. Each module features interactive learning activities and a brief self-assessment, for a total of ten hours of instruction.  Additional resources on the site include a template and checklists for a library accessibility action plan, universal design, Americans with Disability Act compliance, and sample lesson plans for school librarians. A certificate of completion is available for those who complete the training.

With training and resources of this caliber available for free, no librarian has any excuse to plead ignorance about how to provide accessibility. Sign up for a free training account today at

Read Captions Across America on March 2


You’ve probably heard of Read Across America, the national reading event sponsored by the National Education Association every year on or near March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

But did you know that this is also the day we celebrate Read Captions Across America?  This event, sponsored by the Described and Captioned Media Program, was established to “raise awareness—particularly among children and their parents and teachers—that video-based media can be just as effective at encouraging and fostering reading skills as books, as long as captions are always turned on!”

Read Captions Across America emphasizes captions as a reading tool for ALL children, not just thoise who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.  Libraries and schools can promote the necessity of captions for accessibility and enhancing reading skills by incorporating Read Captions Across America programming any time of the year.  Click here to order event kits and download free materials for your own celebration!




Recommended Resource: Including Families of Children with Special Needs

banks300Including Families of Children with Special Needs: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians. Revised by Carrie Scott Banks from the original by Sandra Feinberg, Barbara Jordan, Kathleen Deerr, and Michelle Langa.  Chicago, IL: Neal-Schuman, 2014.

The original 1999 edition of this book was a powerful resource for creating inclusive public library services; with the explosion of technologies and the intense changes in our society’s discussion of disability since that time, purchasing the updated edition is a no-brainer for any public librarian.  For those new to the idea of creating truly inclusive spaces, or those already doing it who want more resources, this is a comprehensive handbook that addresses the basics and beyond.

Continue reading →

Sign Language Interpreters in Your Library: What You Need to Know

by Kathy MacMillan,NIC, M.L.S.

library sign thCAWD7QJOProgramming and special events are a key part of public library services, and providing interpretation services for those events is a key part of effective library service to deaf patrons.  The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that state and local government agencies and public accommodations provide effective communication for deaf people.  Under Title II of this law, storytimes, library board meetings, book club meetings, and other open events should all be made accessible upon request.  Interpreters may also be requested for other events such as job interviews and staff meetings.

Aside from the legal obligation to provide accessibility, making these events open to deaf patrons is integral to the public library’s mission of providing equal access for all.

In many libraries, however, access is limited by lack of clear policies and staff discomfort with procedures for obtaining and working with interpreters.  Many librarians want to provide interpreters, but they simply don’t know where to start.  Here’s your get-started guide.

Advertising Accessibility

Your library should have a policy in place about how far in advance deaf patrons should request an interpreter.  Two weeks is fairly standard; one week should be the minimum.  American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters work in a variety of settings, and most areas have a lot more interpreting work available than there are interpreters to do it.  The more lead time you have to find an interpreter, the more likely you are to be able to fill the patron’s request.  All publicity materials should carry a note about this policy, as well as clear contact information about where to request interpreters.  (Consider providing an email address as well as a phone number when giving this contact information; though most deaf people have access to TTY or video relay service to use the telephone, nearly all use email to communicate.)

The wording of this policy can encompass multiple special needs.  Here’s an example:

“To request sign language interpretation or other accommodation for special needs for any program, please contact Jane Doe at least 2 weeks before the program date. (123-555-5555 or”

Some libraries provide interpreted programs on a regular basis, whether a patron requests it or not.  This is a wonderful way to welcome deaf patrons, and, with a growing number of hearing parents signing with their hearing children, it is sure to earn you points in the hearing community as well.  If you decide to go this route, it’s a good idea to poll members of your local deaf community to make sure your regularly-scheduled interpreted program doesn’t conflict with other deaf community events.  In this case, you would definitely want to advertise that the program is going to be interpreted, but be careful of the language you use:

YES: “ASL interpretation will be provided.”

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!: “This program will be signed for the hearing impaired.”

If you do decide to try providing interpreters at a regularly scheduled program, don’t be surprised if you don’t attract a huge number of deaf people right away.  Deaf people traditionally have not been avid library users, simply because, in many cases, libraries have not provided much for them.  The best way to build a following in the deaf community is through word of mouth – or, in this case, word of hand.  Contact your local association of the deaf or school for the deaf and get the word out.

Hiring Interpreters

The easiest way to hire interpreters is to contract with an interpreting agency.  You provide the agency with all the relevant information about the event that needs interpreting, and the agency locates an interpreter from their pool to fill the assignment.  Of course, such convenience has a price – expect to pay an agency fee in addition to the interpreter’s fee.

Many libraries prefer to contract directly with freelance interpreters.  You can build up your list of freelancers in your area by asking deaf contacts in your community for recommended names, or by searching the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf database at (click on “Find an Interpreter” in the menu on the left hand side of the page).  The benefit of contracting directly with freelancers is that it saves money; the major drawback, however, is that you may spend a lot of time on the phone trying to find an available interpreter.

Standard interpreter fees vary depending upon the nature of the assignment and your location, but expect to pay at least $35-$55 per hour for freelancers, and more if you are working through an agency.  A two-hour minimum charge is standard throughout the industry, as is a 24 to 48 hour cancellation requirement.  Be aware that more than one interpreter may be required for assignments over two hours or for certain special situations such as panel discussions or working with deaf-blind clients.

Though national certification (from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), or the RID-NAD National Interpreter Certification program) is certainly desirable, it is not absolutely necessary for most of the interpreting needs faced by libraries.  If you are working with a reputable agency, you can rest assured that the interpreter has passed the agency’s in-house screening.  If you work directly with freelancers, hiring only certified interpreters is safest.  Either way, be sure to solicit and pay attention to feedback from deaf clients about the interpreter’s performance.

When you call to contract an interpreter, have the following information ready:

  • the date and time of the assignment
  • the setting (toddler storytime, board meeting, job interview, etc)
  • length of the assignment
  • number of deaf and hearing people who will attend
  • contact person’s name and phone number
  • directions and parking instructions
  • as much information as possible about the content of the assignment, including presenter outlines, agenda, programs, and whether any visual aids such as videos will be used

A word about paying for interpreting services: though the cost may sometimes seem steep, you must remember that interpreters have highly specialized skills and training.  Think of the cost of the interpreter not as the cost of providing accessibility for one patron or a small group, but rather the cost of providing equal access to all.  Since your hearing patrons don’t require interpreters, you’re paying nothing for their accessibility, and the amount paid for interpreting services is minimal when it is divided by the total number of patrons, hearing and deaf, whom you are serving.

Working with an Interpreter

The interpreter’s job is to facilitate communication between hearing people and deaf people.  That means the often-used term “interpreter for the deaf” is only half-right; after all, if everyone in the room were deaf, there probably wouldn’t be a need for an interpreter.  The deaf and hearing participants are the active communicators, and the interpreter is the link that connects them.  This is the most important thing to remember when communicating through an interpreter: speak and look directly to the deaf person or people, and treat them with the same respect you afford to other guests in your library.  Follow the tips below to make the communication run even more smoothly:

 Before the interpreted event:

  • Provide as much information as possible to the interpreter.  The more information you can provide in advance, the better a job the interpreter will be able to do.  Because American Sign Language depends heavily on context, the more the interpreter understands in advance about what is going on, the more easily the communication will flow.  Providing outlines, agendas, etc. when booking the interpreter is ideal, but if that’s not possible, plan to provide at least an overview of the interpreted event when the interpreter arrives (usually 15 to 20 minutes before the start time).
  • Think about sight and sound: Your deaf attendees need to be able to see the interpreter, and the interpreter needs to be able to hear anyone who is speaking.  Work with the interpreter to find the best place to stand or sit, and make sure that other people won’t be walking in between the interpreter and the deaf folks.  Ideally, the interpreter will be lighted from above (not behind), and will be placed against a neutral background.  (Having the interpreter stand against a window or patterned wall, for example, would cause a huge visual distraction.) 
  • Let the interpreter know if you are planning to use visual aids, especially if you will need to dim the lights for any reason.  If you are using a video, check to see if it is captioned.  If it is not, make sure you let the interpreter look it over before the program.

 During the interpreted event:

  • Speak at a normal pace and volume.  The interpreter will let you know if you need to repeat anything or speak up.
  • When asking questions of the audience, remember that the interpreter will always be interpreting slightly behind the presenter.  This is because of the way the interpreting process works: the interpreter must hear the English message, process it, and then put it out in ASL.  To be fair to the deaf members of the audience, allow an extra few beats before calling on someone to answer your question.
  • If you are using any visual aids, such as a PowerPoint presentation, transparencies, or even storytime props, allow time for the deaf folks to absorb the visual information.  Hearing people can look at a screen and listen to a presenter at the same time; deaf people cannot look at the screen and watch the interpreter at the same time.  When showing a visual aid, show it without speaking for a moment, then launch into your discussion. 
  • When speaking to a deaf person, speak directly to him or her.  In other words, don’t turn to the interpreter and say, “Tell him I said…”  Doing so is rude and distracting to both the interpreter and the deaf person, and can actually cause more confusion.
  • Though it may be tempting, don’t use the interpreter as a volunteer, aide or object of attention.  Most interpreters find it very difficult and awkward to participate while trying to convey what is going on to the deaf person.
  • In a setting such as a meeting or discussion group, work out a visual way to establish turn-taking.  This could be something as simple as having the current speaker hold a ball or paperweight.  This provides a visual cue to let the deaf people know who is speaking, and also puts deaf and hearing people on equal ground when trying to get a word in edgewise.
  • When providing an interpreter for a children’s program, consider giving a brief explanation of the interpreter’s role at the beginning of the program, to defuse questions from eager participants: “Miss Kathy is our sign language interpreter today.  When we say something in English, she will interpret it into American Sign Language for our deaf friends.  When our deaf friends sign something, Miss Kathy will say it in English for us.”  And don’t worry about the kids in your story time being too distracted by the interpreter – odds are, they will be fascinated by the novelty for the first five minutes, then forget about it and move on.
  • Remember that the interpreter’s job is to say everything that is signed, and sign everything that is spoken.  In other words, if you don’t want it interpreted, don’t say it where the interpreter can hear you! 

After the interpreted event:

  • Ask the interpreter for feedback on how you can make interpreted events go more smoothly in the future.  Also let the interpreter know if you have any concerns about how the event went.
  • Ask for feedback from the deaf attendees.  Understandably, many deaf people might be hesitant to tell you about problems with an interpreter through that very interpreter, so provide them with a contact name and email address where they can send feedback.
  • Give yourself a hand!  Remember that you have not only made the library more accessible, you have provided a great example of accessible communication for all the attendees of your event!

Kathy MacMillan is a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter who has worked in libraries for over fifteen years.  Find out more about her interpreting services and programs and workshops for libraries at

8 Tips for Making Storytimes Accessible

Working with children with special needs can take many librarians aback; after all, most of us don’t have specialized training in this area. It can be a challenge to meet the unique needs of one child while simultaneously trying to meet the differing needs of the rest of the group. Sometimes, a child may seem uncommunicative or disruptive, and we might even wonder if he or she is getting anything out of storytime at all. Remember, all children need a variety of settings in which to learn and a healthy exposure to a variety of adult role models. In the storytime setting, you can set the tone for inclusion and respect for diversity through the attitude you display.

1) Make it active!:

Activities that make use of props, visuals, and movement work well with typically developing children too, of course, but for children with special needs, these elements may be even more necessary to catch and hold attention and foster understanding.

2) Use your resources:

Ask the child’s parent or caregiver what kinds of activities may work best. Don’t be afraid to establish a dialogue; just make sure you are always broaching to topic from the standpoint of wanting to provide the best possible storytime experience for the child.

3) Think about placement:

Location is particularly important for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, who should be seated near the front of the room for best sightlines. If you are working with an interpreter, he or she should be as close as possible to the speaker, so that the child can follow both. For children with mobility issues, find a place that is easy to get to and will allow for maximum participation on the part of the child.

4) Use consistent visuals or signals for transitions:

Some students with special needs may find it difficult to transition from one activity to another—that is, to transfer their attention from one task to another. Getting students’ attention may be as simple as using a visual signal, such as raising two fingers in a letter V, flickering the lights, singing a certain song, or repeating a special verse. These sorts of “rituals” help children make sense of their world.

5) Wait 10 seconds:

When you ask a question or ask for volunteers, wait 10 seconds before calling on someone. This gives everyone time to process the request (and, if you are working with an interpreter, gives him or her time to interpret it!), providing a fair chance for everyone to answer. Due to differences in learning styles, allowing an extra moment before calling on someone to answer can level the playing field for typically developing children as well. Some children naturally take more time to process than others.

6) Use movement response: 

When you ask a question, have all the children respond simultaneously via a gesture. For example, you might say, “If you think the fox will try to eat the grapes, touch your nose. If you think the fox will run away, touch your bellybutton.”

7) Manage turn-taking:

Many special needs students respond well to visual or tactile prompts, and so a “talking stick,” stuffed animal, or other special object that denotes whose turn it is to speak will help keep storytime orderly.

8) Keep it uncluttered:

You may need to keep program materials out of reach or even out of sight until needed. Children on the autism spectrum may become easily overstimulated or distracted. Keep your program area uncluttered to maximize their focus.

In essence, every child is an individual with his or her own special needs. Looking at the children in your storytime with this attitude means that you accept and include each student. Attitude is the most important factor in working with special needs students. In storytime, children at every level of development are absorbing language and information about the world through interactions with you and other children. When in doubt, focus on what a child can do, rather than what he or she cannot do.